HC Deb 22 February 1982 vol 18 cc590-2
41. Mr. Neubert

asked the Attorney-General what percentage of jurors summoned in 1981 subsequently served; and what was the cost to public funds in respect of (a) those summoned who served and (b) those who did not.

The Attorney-General

The number of persons summoned found to be ineligible or disqualified, or who are excused from serving, is not recorded centrally. In most centres, jury summoning is carried out as part of the routine duties of court staff and is not identified as a separate head of expenditure. In 1981 expenditure on allowances paid to jurors was £12, 128, 931.

Mr. Neubert

Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the number of jurors summoned is no more than is necessary and that expenditure in that connection is kept to a minimum?

The Attorney-General

Yes, Sir. There have been various investigations, and a departmental study under Sir Derek Rayner was conducted last year. Many problems can occur. If there is a firm determination to plead not guilty, the jurors—there must always be more than 12 to allow for challenges—are told that they will be needed for some weeks. Then, at the eleventh hour, the accused changes his plea to guilty. It cannot be avoided that, in some courts, many jurors must hang around. A system is being tried out now whereby jurors ring in each day at a certain time in order to save their unnecessary attendance.

Mr. John Page

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider ways in which jurors waiting for service may have their lives made slightly less boring than at the moment, when they sit in draughty passages day after day waiting for something to happen? Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that I wrote to him suggesting that there might be a canteen or a library provided?

The Attorney-General

Facilities vary from court to court. In modern courts there are good facilities for jurors. In some older courts the conditions for everyone who must attend are rather gruesome. However, my noble and learned Friend is keeping the matter under review, because it is unfair that someone who is called to perform a public duty—as jury service is—at great inconvenience, must suffer one iota more discomfort than is necessary.